Friday, 15 January 2016

Matthew Engel on St. Helena

St Helena Independent 15 January 2016

The former Guardian Journalist Matthew Engel has just paid a short visit to St. Helena and intends to write an article about it for the Financial Times. From the comments he has made it looks as if he could perhaps make a real impact on debate about the future of the island.

Like all of us who love the island he is worried that with the coming of the airport something unique and precious will be lost and St Helena will become like every- where else.

His most important observations are about how the island is governed. He was shocked to find the extent to which St Helena is not self governing, and how important decisions are taken by short term people coming from London. On my own last visit to the island I heard a lot about "White ants" and soon realised that the Saints were not referring to the termites who have wreaked such havoc on the island but to a more recent intake of expatriates!

Matthew described the relations between government and the governed as one of the worst that I have seen in a notional democracy - It is dysfunctional. It is a horrible mess. He recommends that the Saints should take more responsibility for their own destiny.

A very gifted journalist, whose column in the Financial Times is always perceptive and amusing, he has been far more prepared than others who have visited, sometimes with their fares paid by the St Helena Government, to take on board the criticisms made by the Saints themselves. I look forward to reading his article.

A tribute also to the St. Helena Independent. It doesn't always get it right, but it serves a vital function on the island.

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